In “Band Aid,” two squabbling spouses begin addressing their marital issues by writing rock songs about them. It’s a premise that suggests, at best, a cute gimmick film.
But rare among romantic comedies, this modest but stimulating indie, the directorial debut of Zoe Lister-Jones, delivers not romcom formula, but genuine emotion.
Lister-Jones, who also wrote the screenplay and stars, has made a contemporary battle-of-the-sexes comedy containing scenes-from-a-marriage seriousness, “comedy of remarriage” dynamics (echoing “The Lovers”) and cultural Jewish seasoning. The tone is raw, realistic and serio-breezy.
Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are 30-something Angelinos dissatisfied on numerous fronts.
She’s a writer who drives for Uber. He’s a graphic designer who creates soulless logos. The two quarrel constantly — often about dirty dishes and how Anna always seems to work the Holocaust into the argument.
When not fighting, they are likely to be getting high, blocking out their feelings.
But then, at a child’s birthday party, Anna and Ben pick up toy instruments and sing. The experience proves so fun that they soon form a rock band and write songs about their domestic woes.
Needing a drummer, they bring aboard Weird Dave (Fred Armisen), a neighbor whose moniker isn’t misleading.
Soon the couple are appearing at open-mike sessions and becoming lovebirds again. Will their happiness last, though?
The film loses some spark toward the end, when the action begins suggesting a marriage-therapy seminar.
Additional frustrations include Armisen’s Weird Dave, whose creepy quirkiness doesn’t jibe with the free-flowing, natural quality of the overall film.
Lister-Jones also overdoes the issue of a sad incident in the couple’s past, a misfortune tediously familiar in stories about emotionally derailed couples.
Largely, however, this is a fresh and satisfying story about love, art, lost youth and rejuvenation.
Lister-Jones — who says the movie’s vibe is inspired by the thought of what a comedy directed by John Cassavetes might be like — writes believable characters whose interactions feel spontaneous. They display a wide range of shades, sometimes shifting from happiness to antagonism instantly.
The film isn’t afraid to present their pain truly seriously.
Nor does Lister-Jones let the potentially gimmicky songs eclipse the emotion behind them.
Lister-Jones’ Anna and Pally’s Ben (the actors’ respective TV credits include “Life in Pieces” and “Happy Endings”) are nuanced and terrific, generating chemistry necessary to convince viewers they share an underlying love.
The movie is funny, too. A little girl at a friend’s party is named Isis (after the Egyptian goddess). On the beach, Anna and Ben, seeking creative inspiration, consume some magic mushrooms, with hilariously unproductive results.
The songs, which Lister-Jones cowrote with Kyle Forester, actually sound like work by individuals who have dusted off their high-school guitars and their shelved dreams. All three leads really perform the music.
Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman
Written and directed by: Zoe Lister-Jones
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes